Steve Farnsworth is a Forbes Top 50 Social Media Influencer who specializes in demand generation content marketing for B2B high tech Chief Marketing Officers. Today's podcast deals with the common disconnect between what Chief Marketing Officers say and the results their team produces.
Alzay Calhoun: Well hey everybody, it's Alzay Calhoun with Coveted Consulting and today I'm here with Steve Farnsworth. He is Chief Marketing Officer of the Steveology Group, and there are a couple of attributes I want to just use to introduce him. He is a Forbes Top 50 Social Media Influencer, he's a LinkedIn Top 25 Social Media Marketing Expert, now that's the proof that he does the work. He does these things, he's real and active in this space. There's one more attribute I want to use describe him, to kind of introduce where he's coming from, he's been noted by Forbes Magazine as being the number 1 influencer on Twitter for having the highest percentage, and for his case it was 95%, of active followers in the field of public relations. What does that mean very practically? That means that he has live people following him, not bots, or fake accounts but real people that are following him, having real conversations, real interactions on Twitter.
That value that it is, we're talking to someone who actually does the work and is engaged in real people and real conversations. That's what we're after in this spirit of storytelling and content marketing. So without any further ado, let me welcome Steve Farnsworthh. Steve how are you today, sir?
Steve Farnsworth: I'm doing awesome, how are you doing?
Alzay Calhoun: I'm doing really good, it's a pleasure to have you. I'd like to start at the beginning, so please tell us the story of when you understood that storytelling was important.
Steve Farnsworth: You know, I would actually say that it actually goes back sometime when I first started getting into public relations, which would have been like in the mid 90's or some place in there. What I learned from the interim story telling, we didn't have that kind of notion, but what I realized pretty quickly is if you provided people with the right kind of information, and for us at that time, content marketing really was about placing speakers and arranging for white papers, those sort of things. Most of my clients were in, all my clients really, in technology and some of them [inaudible 00:02:06] technology. Really what you need to do is have this cohesive argument, this collection of information that buyers were making decisions, they were spending hundreds of thousands of dollars or millions of dollars on, that there's information there that kind of met their informational needs.
With story telling in that sense, and I really, for me that was pretty powerful. I had an opportunity to not, massage the truth or anything but they actually say, "Here's what my thinking is." I force my clients to say, "Well why did you this, this way, what's the advantage versus the other way?" Really get them to put their argument out there and that was when I first kind of realize you can put all these pieces together and tell a story about the brand and your thinking in a way that connect with customers and allow them to make an informed decision.
Alzay Calhoun: You just did one of my favorite phrases, helping the customer make an informed decision. Not bending or plying or forcing them to decide what you want them to decide, but instead give them the appropriate information and then let them choose. Let them choose with you, or not with you or whatever choice they want to make.
Steve Farnsworth: One of the things is that people, we all have our B.S. detectors. We always know when we go to some place and we're reading marketing copy and it's fluffy and meaningless, it doesn't connect with us. We have this B.S. meter, unfortunately some how when people become marketers, they remove that sensor and they put all the same crap out. You need to be able to tell stuff to be able to make an informed decision. If you don't have the right information, or you're not doing the right thing, you need to rethink your whole business model. I only work with clients I believe have a great solution to what they are doing. You can't make silk out of a sow's ear and all that kind of stuff.
Alzay Calhoun: Let's talk about how that practically works, you just said these are, in your world, these are clients that are making a very expensive decision, 10's of thousands, 100,000 etc, so how do we use content, how do we use story to inform that level of decision, this is what they call a complex sale. How do we inform a complex sale?
Steve Farnsworth: There are a lot of touch points that people go through. For the average [B2B 00:04:24] sale there are 5.4 decision makers in that sale. You can't approach content with this kind of, "Hey, were going to this eBook, we're going to do this thing." You have to step back and do a couple of things. You have to think like a publisher and people will talk about that, but they don't really know what that means. Publishers have to create something that their readers really want and they have to do it in economical terms and make a profit from that. When you kind of...right now, most marketing departments are still caught in this old mentality, where they're doing one off content. They need to move from that mind set, where they might do an eBook, or they might do this thing, or do a piece every month or whatever, but there's still these one off mind set pieces. Not continuity and they have to move to thinking like daily publication. Even if they're only doing it every couple days or every week, you have to think that regular publication thing.
That means what do people really want and understanding them. That's a piece that a lot of people aren't thinking about, stepping back and really looking at who they're talking to. I mean by title and industry and looking at all the components. That needs to happen. Most of the clients, the CMO's know exactly what they want. They say we need content, we need to do more of this, and by the time it gets handed off to people executing, they're doing top 10 lists of their favorite cat video's. Not really, but you know just content that's not connecting specifically with the buying ecosystem of their customers. They might be too low.
I think a really good example of this is, a big company, very well known company brand got, I think it was about 4 or 5 millions visits to their web page a month, or page views. That's probably a couple million unique visitors. That's a huge, huge number. They were noted by, and this company is still active now, they were noted for being great content marketers. I actually had a chance to talk to their CMO, and I found out that when they did testing of their name, it got really high marks. They did testing on what they did, they got horrible marks, only a few percentage knew what they did for a living. There was a big disconnect.
Additionally to that, so all this great content and these page views translated into very, very, very little business. I think it was like a percent or 2 turned into business. These are people spending millions of dollars and they're not connecting. That all had to do with, again, really smart folks but people creating content to drive eyeballs, because that was what they, "You go drive eyeballs, go write something people want to read." It wasn't connecting to the larger mission of selling product, because something they were producing wasn't being read by the decision makers in the buying ecosystem.
Alzay Calhoun: I was going to ask you how that disconnect occurs, but I think you may have just said it, well no, let me ask a little deeper. You said on one level the CMO knows what they want and on some level it's a version of dry revenue, but then at the same time the CMO is saying drive eyeballs, is telling the content team to drive eyeballs, how does that happen? How do we say both things out of the same mouth so to speak, how do we say drive revenue and eyeballs, those aren't the same thing. How does that disconnect live?
Steve Farnsworth: There's nobody sitting down to them going, "Hey, listen, this is the way it's really done." The CMO, every conversation, with the exception of the CMO's from companies that are immature in terms of marketing. Maybe big dollars so they don't have a lot of market pressures, those people don't tend to agree, but when I talk to people who are serious CMO's and they're doing stuff, they and I never disagree or rarely disagree, we have the same vision. They have a decision but when they go way and they said go off and do this, that goes to another manager, someone below them who then works for the people who actually didn't do the content. There are a couple of layers of management there. This lower level may not be as aware as connected because of where they are in their career or whatever, and so they start using eyeballs or page views or shares or likes or fans as somehow an important quality KPI. These are good numbers to track, but they're not really, they don't connect with things. The measurement of the lower end is happening out of ignorance and the vision is not getting carried through.
It's an education issue, it's also somebody when they bring somebody like me in, most of my clients are doing good stuff in content by any measure, but what they're not doing is really taking advantage of all the opportunity by really understanding the customer. I mean really understanding the customer. Really understanding it from the sales perspective or what the customers are really doing, who is really buying it. Lots of times, marketing people talk to each other, and we live in a little bit of a bubble and that's dangerous. That's why I think that happens.
Alzay Calhoun: What I heard you describe is kind of like the telephone game, you know when you start with the message on one end and you pass the same message, it could be the cow has blue shoes, but by the time you get to person number 10, passing that message down, it's now the orange dinosaur runs in the field and you're like how in the world did we go from cow, blue shoes to a red dinosaur. There's a version of that is what I'm hearing you describe in that world. Now I want to put you on the spot here ...
Steve Farnsworth: I think you're absolutely right, I would just say one little piece of that, is that we tell people to go do this thing, we don't always tell them our thinking, so people don't understand why we're doing it the reason behind it, they just try to accomplish and that's why I think, that's the other piece I guess, not only the bad messaging, but people were never told what are we really trying to achieve by this activity down at execution level.
Alzay Calhoun: Okay, you are a mind reader, because I was going to ask you a follow up. I was going to put you on the spot and you just did it. That question was basically how do we fix that, what is the mechanism to fix that, please go ahead if you've got more on that.
Steve Farnsworth: No, no, I think the way you fix that is, it takes a little bit of effort and work because a lot of these people, again they go into these companies, really smart companies are using CRM systems or using marketing automation and sometimes they haven't really gotten down to the nitty gritty about who their users are. What I often do with a client or I always do, is I sit down and look at their products. I try to break it down, like if you look at product sales, raw sales of a product, say you go to the last 100 sales for a particular product, and you were to segment those, you'd come up with 2 or 3 segments, potentially, for that one product that accounted for like 80 or more percent of that sale, maybe even 90 percent. Those 2 or 3 groups, whatever that is, once you know those 2 or 3 groups because you've gone through those 100 sales, and you've identified titles, you tend to identify the industry the company sides, how they're using it is it different for each of the segments or whatever ... how are they using it.
Just that information most people don't have. Shocking how many people don't sit down and print out a piece of paper when I go through that with a client, if they have 100 sales in that product category, it's usually kind of hard to kind of look at these 100 sales, I also would love to know where do they come from, if I can know that too, where are they coming in from? That's really hard and rarely done, but if you have information, you now have a place to start. [inaudible 00:12:18] how to identify at least how to create content to match those peoples needs, because one of the things you want to know is why did they raise their hand? If it's a CMO, so one client they had, they had a high end software product, one for $200- $300,000 and $100,000 [inaudible 00:12:37] or something like that, and they sold to CMO's and VP's in marketing. Excuse me CMO's and VP's of sales. Those 2 tend to have someone work for them do the first outreach.
The person reaching out first was a lower level person who was doing it in behalf of a VP of Sales or CMO, and so they were doing it because they were trying to find a way to improve what they were doing. Those are 2 people now who have different needs and there's the people raising their hand up has different needs. I have a little bit better picture.
The third client was a much smaller group of those 3 people, was IP managers. Even though it was probably, I don't know a quarter or 20% of the number of people that raise their hand were IP managers. They tended to close 90% of those in about 30 days, which is about 2/3 less than other ones. Once you kind of know all those pieces you sit down and go okay, now I have a picture. We know the IT person, IT gal raises her hand because it's part of her job description to do things better. The CMO and VP may raise their hand [inaudible 00:13:46] their job or assign someone so they've been told. We now have an idea of the kind of content that we can create that's going to meet that.
That's kind of the first part because once you have that information, you looked at last 100 sales, I'm a really big fan of taking sales people to lunch. I think people should be doing that. [inaudible 00:14:02] organization you should be doing that a lot. You should be doing sales ride along if that's an option, if you get to develop a relationship with a sales person, go out and see them actually do a sale, what's important to that customer and use that to inform your content strategy. Yes it's a lot of work and it should be an ongoing process, but that stuff doesn't usually happen. What they do is they jump over and they go we need content so what should we do. Let's set it in this room, a bunch of marketing people and generate some ideas we think makes sense.
That's normally the process it follows as opposed the longer one which I just laid out. Anyone can do that, the only tools they need to be able to do that is time, and focus, and dedication. You don't need anything fancy and once you have those things all the other pieces of your content machine can now fall into place because now you can create content with some regularity on topics that are relevant to those people.
Alzay Calhoun: Now as you explain it, it couldn't be more obvious, it' couldn't be more obvious that we shouldn't create... or content should facilitate the sales process and so if we don't understand the sales process, we can't create good content. We should be present in the sales process, at least be aware of the sales process, so we can create content that that facilitates. As you describe it, no kidding, obviously, but you're also describing situations were that's not happening. Kind of a basic response, why is that taking place? Why is that such obvious point of value, having content be a overlayed into the sales process, why isn't that happening from what you've seen?
Steve Farnsworth: I think it comes down to time and pressure, people want to get stuff done. They tend to need to have stuff to report at the quarterly meetings or whatever, or weekly reports. They're looking to get stuff done and the idea of stopping and spending a lot of time in the front part is daunting. It seems like...and we've all done a lot of front end work, and it's been a waste. People do their complex business plan that should have been a page and are 900 pages or whatever. I think there's always that reluctance. What we're talking about here, we need to do some exploration. It's not about getting it done, it's about understanding where we're going to go, because we're going to be able to get there. People, they kind of go yeah, not a problem we know our customers off hand, but when you're asking questions about titles and industry and percentages, they rarely have that kind of data. I think there's pressure to get it done, there's let's move forward, let's go, let's not waste time with a lot of busy work and that's why it short shifted.
When someone brings me in and they talk to me, that's when they tend to have a moment of kind deeper reflection, they need a little bit more information. It's not like we sent all this software that allows people to print all the parts for a building or whatever. Our builders are sales folks, or customers, is that really true? Who is really buying it and how are they doing it. They don't take that extra step to go oh you know what, instead of being this general arc type like we thought it was, it's really these 3 specific categories. I think that's what happens.
Alzay Calhoun: Let's talk directly to the CMO, which by the way, you've got a, can I call it a Podcast? It's CMOTV.
Steve Farnsworth: Yes, it's something I started recently and get it going. Yes, that's CMOTV.
Alzay Calhoun: Let's kind of [inaudible 00:17:40] so the idea of CMOTV is to actually talk to the CMO and help the CMO. Let's assume that there's a CMO listening right now, and they've heard the conversation and they're like, "Yep, I've got some gaps, I know what I want but it's not being delivered in my organization, and I need to take a few steps to close those gaps and to have content and better serve our organization." Where should that CMO begin this conversation? Where should they begin that process?
Steve Farnsworth: I'd go back, I would put somebody...first of all most CMO's are just, they act incredibly strategic and handle a ton of different small pieces, which is really a tough job. I'd say you need to have somebody who is going to go pull that information together for you, ideally everybody in marketing is doing some level of this but at least the person of direct contact that's going to go and actually get a day to [inaudible 00:18:41] from CRM system, go interface a sale, really provide... I'd call it persona, I don't like personas because they tend to be kind of Susie likes to buy latte's, and drive a SUV or whatever, and that's not happening. Going back, when i look for my segments for a certain product. Start with what do you sell the most of here. Then start with what are the segments of that product. Going down asking the questions I want to know the day of the last 100 sales, if I have that many sales in that product, who bought it. I want to know all that detail, the industry and the stuff. I want to know what the objectives were from the sales process, I want to know what other kinds of issues.
Frankly, it doesn't have to be long, but it's a lot of footwork. You can get that down to a couple pages of information. I would say that's the first thing that, as a CMO, I'd want to do. Once I have that information, I knew the people I was talking to, I had all that data and I knew what the issues were. When you have that in front of you, at that point then you can create content. You can create content because you know what these people are going through, which you should at that point. Now you can say let's talk about what we know as it relates to what they need to know to their jobs better. How can we solve their pain problems. That's the other thing, people tend to talk about what they sell, not about what they know. You have to talk about what you know, not about what you sell to be heard.
People have that B.S. detector. If you just talk about yourself, oh we're great, you should buy us, if you're educating, here's the things you should be aware of and here's how we address these issues. Here's some other people talking about some related stuff [inaudible 00:20:19]. That's kind of late stage where you talk about industry things that are relevant. I have a lot of customers who sell products to marketing and sales people. We can talk some level about something marking your sales that that sales executive or the marketing executive in the morning will click on and maybe read that thing or listen to Podcasts whatever the right way to connect with that customer is. We can figure that shit out. Excuse me, we can figure that stuff out. By having their information in front of us when we start the whole process. That's the first thing I would do as a CMO. That's the thing I do when I go into customers is I bring all the stuff down so I actually have a really clear, we all have an agreement about who we're talking to. Once you know that, the content tends to write itself.
Alzay Calhoun: What you just described. If you're present, you are facilitating that project? You're a part of the [inaudible 00:21:10] that makes that go. If they don't have you, if you're not around now the CMO has to delegate this project. Let's talk about that for a minute. Who are we going to go get. Is this the director of my content team, does that person need to have certain skills? [inaudible 00:21:27] and I don't how comfortable they are with data. They write things. I don't know if they do data. Help us think through how to delegate this product or this project.
Steve Farnsworth: I think that I'd find somebody who is good at synthesizing information obviously. It doesn't have to be somebody who's a hard core data person. It's nice if they are but it has to be somebody that once you put all those 7 or 8 questions we kind of went through here [inaudible 00:21:56], I want answers to these questions. It has to be somebody who's going to spend maybe a week or 2 and go out and get the information and put that in there. It's just somebody who has the ability to look at a group of information and go "Oh here are the larger groupings". So basic skills. I think it can be almost anyone long as they have the ability to kind of look at something and go "Oh you know what here are the 2 or 3 groups of people that I see. I see these 2 or 3 industries. I see these 2 or 3 titles" or whatever. They can have the ability to not get lost in the data and not to over analyze. We're not looking for ... We're looking for hard to get data but we're not looking for complex data.
Alzay Calhoun: Thing number 1 here that there's some core questions that need to be answered. We need the information so let's go get the information. We got to do that. Then when the information is present, we can synthesize that data to find the categories that you're talking about. So again those hundred sales, who actually makes the purchase, who says "`yes we're in". So then from those categories we decide which of those we want to talk more to. We want to get in deeper with if you will. Okay cool. That is that framework. Now, 1 step beyond that. We've got the 100 sales, we found the categories, we say you know what, there's this segment amongst the 3 that we really should be talking to. Let's talk about content for a second. What kind of content should we make for that 1 segment that we found is the best segment for us? An article, and eBook, a white paper, how do you think about it?
Steve Farnsworth: Right. I would say that when I'm talking about this, finding your biggest segment I would start with the biggest one but I would say I'm going to make content for the second and third groups too. I'm just going to prioritize. I started the first when I say, we're talking to these IT directors and they're going to be buying this little piece of service that attracts software on their servers pretend. Some complex thing. That's what we find and there's companies from these kinds of sizes. I go on to LinkedIn and I look a little bit about what these people do for a living, what their skill sets are and I do a little bit of thinking. I got some information from the [inaudible 00:24:17] when you deal with these people, what are the questions they're asking, what are the issues they're asking.
Those questions they're asking already are telling me the kinds of content I can create. [inaudible 00:24:27] Those questions are already telling me the kind of content that I can create. By understanding what the what the sales people's feedback are and any feedback you get from a ride along, that's already telling me the needs or the problems people need solved. Also from the whole thing, where are their pain points that we're solving and how can we talk about solving pain points beyond our product. From looking at those little pieces I have already a pool of topic ideas.
From that I tend to love to do Podcasts and blogs because they think it's nice original content captured. Then I can take that same content and turn it in to written posts. I can break it down. I can also roll things back, I can roll things us to become eBooks and White Papers and that sort of thing. There's a lot of flexibility. Once I have the topics I'm going to pick the a format that produces regularly. I like Podcasts or Blogs and then written components because now I can get one piece of content and make multiple things from it. I can have a podcast on [inaudible 00:25:29] platform like Speaker or SoundCloud. I can have a video up on YouTube. I can embed it in my blog, I can then to a write up separately from all of that and have a written piece. I would look at doing those pieces then I would plan out a production schedule. Every week, every 2 weeks, once a month depending on what the company's say.
I think that doing it less than once a month, depending on what you doing, is probably going to be not enough. Doing something weekly might be aggressive but probably better for the content. That's how I would plan those pieces. The other thing I would look at is when I look at this group of topics and I identify industry or that's the piece I miss. Let's say I do a blog/Podcast. You can do some written pieces from that. That's what we decided, we're going to do it every 2 weeks, we're going to do it twice a month or something. Then what I want to do is I want to find a combination of folks who are internal experts on these topics. Internal domain experts in my company. I'm going to find external industry influencers and authors and bloggers and other people who know what they're talking about into respects on the same topic.
Then I'm going to bring content around that. The people in my company are also going to be in the same format and the same place, people are saying "are they industry [inaudible 00:26:47] leaders known industry figures" and so I get guilt by association. I'm also showing the breadth of my company. That's kind of the process. Once they have the editorial topics focused on, identified the people who talk on those topics, I would then get a little more [inaudible 00:27:04] and what they talk about specifically. My content calendar, my editorial calendar, literally almost write this up. You have to go through the steps but when you start looking at it between the topics and the talk where people can talk about it then you start mapping that out on an editorial calendar.
It's really straight forward but it's hard for people to stay focused because I think it gets a little bit overwhelming ... They look at the elephant and they go "How can I eat a whole elephant" and it's a piece at a time.
Alzay Calhoun: That's right. We've gone to [inaudible 00:27:34] have a picture of not just how content gets made because you can kind of get stuck there but how that content will be useful to us. So useful to us as a company also useful to those who take it in. Cool. Final check about that. Did we miss anything? Was something that you should have said, that we should have said, that we should have said, that I should have asked? To further blow out that conversation?
Steve Farnsworth: Well you know I think that if you follow this process where you identify those topics because you've identified the actual consumer's product and identified topics that relate to that. You've identified internal experts and external influencers that you can talk about on your show. You have all these pieces. What you can do and it takes a little pre-planning but if I know in advance that I want to do an eBook for instance. I can actually pic a topic and have 5 different experts speak on that topic. I can even use the same 5 questions in each of those interviews and I can weave that through and I can do 2 or 3 simultaneously. Say I have a topic I want to talk about, server logs and analytics for server logs or whatever, so I can talk to 5 people around questions around that. That's the main topic to ask them the same type of questions whether they think about the future server logs and analytics and I put that together.
So I have those 5 things and produce them in real time, I publish them in real time, whatever my schedule is. Now it all exists out there. I can go back and I can also turn them into blogs, I can then take all that content and the written pieces I've had made and turn that into an eBook so now I can gate that piece of content for demand generation. I've had multiple bites of the apple. Each originally piece of content has 4 or 5 or 6 digital pings on the internet to be found. Each of those pieces of content have been rolled up into a large piece which I can now promote and do PBC around and use it as a gated item or to drive blog subscription or whatever. I think that if you plan that ahead, doing groupings for those, you can not only do regular production but also make these bigger content pieces where most marketers kind of throw themselves at the big content pieces and chop it up and hope it works out. It's always a little funky and I think it's a huge missed opportunity. Why not do it going forward and assemble the book later.
People are going to want the eBook or are going to be different people who have watched all along. You get 2 bites of the apple. You get all those people who have learned about the content, interacted with your brand and now you have another piece which you can gate or ask for an email address on.
Alzay Calhoun: Got you. Wonderful. What's going on in your business. What's the big thing that you've got going on. How are you bringing all these concepts together in your business?
Steve Farnsworth: It's really one on one obviously. I guess there's 2 parts. One is really is one on one it's like what I actually ... Having the opportunity to go out and talk about this to fellow marketers like yourself and chat about it because we all again, we're all in violent agreement about these kinds of things but people haven't necessarily heard it. Just because you and I might know it inside out doesn't mean everybody else does. That's one piece. The other part is that in continuation. It's like [inaudible 00:30:50] TV thing. I had an opportunity. I know some really incredible CMOs and I love nerding it out and having these geek marketing conversations with them about what they're thinking about, what the challenges are. CMOs don't have a lot of outlets in terms of having these kinds of conversations and these are great conversations to have and I knew other people would benefit. For me, the larger levels, I tend to stick around the kind of content theme but I want to have these conversations with CMOs. Those are the conversations I have had over drinks elsewhere but now recorded so we can share with other people. To increase institutional knowledge.
Alzay Calhoun: Yeah. Excellent. If someone is enjoying this conversation and goes yip he is the guy we need, where is Steve, how do I find him. Let's answer that question. Where can someone go to reach out to you and take a next step?
Steve Farnsworth: Well they can do a couple of things. They can find me previously on Twitter, I'm Steveology on Twitter. They can come visit me at my blog and interact with me there, contact me or subscribe to my blog and CMO TV and that's Steveologygroup.com.
Alzay Calhoun: Wonderful. Well Steve. That you for your time today. Thank you for unraveling this process for us so we can kind of see its front and back. Thank you for your time today.
Steve Farnsworth: It's been an absolute delight, I love chatting about marketing obviously it's not something you normally do at parties because if you go up and talk about marketing to folks at parties they tend to walk away awkwardly. I appreciate the opportunity.
Alzay Calhoun: You bet, thanks so much.